If water in a dam on the brink of breaking can be observed to be calm, then Sarah calmly rose from where she had been sleeping, strode into the elevator and pressed ‘R’. A minute later the elevator opened on the roof. Leaning casually on the railing, Chris turned to see as the doors made a whirring noise to shut and felt white and purple spots dance in front of his eyes. Sarah’s full handed slap connected perfectly, and she waited for him to look at her again from the sideward position his head had settled into.
Stunned, Chris turned very slowly to look at her and worked his mouth. The morning had been calm, but the myriad emotions that crashed into his conscience from Sarah’s mind made even a storm look weak. A thousand feelings raged, among them fear topmost. But like blue sea water that turns transparent as soon as you look straight into it, fear alternated with seeming to be fury. Sarah was trying to suppress fear by channelling it into rage. “How dare you?” HOW DARE HE?
Not just spoken words, but their mirror image in thought resonated in his mind and he did not know what to do. As a matter of fact, he knew he had to apologize.
“Sarah, I’m sorry I-”
Sarah stood in front of him, shivering with rage and fear as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“How dare you-” This time the accusation had an unfinished feel to it, and her uninhibited emotions were flooding his mind. She wanted to end with “leave me alone?” but now there was a different war going on inside her.
What right do I have? Why is he supposed to be there when I wake up in a strange, soundless, soulless place? He has no responsibility to take care of me. I should be behaving better. I...
The thoughts went through her mind as she felt her hand stinging from the slap. She looked into his eyes to say something, but suddenly he closed the distance between them with a step forward and put his arms around her to pull her close. Her hands hung limply on the sides for a few moments, then she put them around his head and buried her face in his neck- he being only two inches taller than her, and sobbed for the first time.
“I want to go home Chris. I-uh-I want to go back...” But Chris was not listening to her. Inside his head, her sobs were heart wrenching wails created by memories of home, of friends.
Sarah clung to him, afraid that he might push her away and tell her to behave her age. She sobbed once, twice, and once more- and as if an east facing window had opened in an April morning to let the rising sun’s rays to come in, his thoughts of comfort and sharing her pain came flooding into her mind and erased all fragments of fear and doubt from her. The hug became all that supported her legs from giving way, and very slowly she felt herself being nudged away. Gently, his cheek brushed against her teary cheek and he held her in front of him.
Chris felt fear drain away from her conscience and a throbbing replaced it, coming from her right hand. He held her shoulders and slowly pushed her away.
Sarah felt him taking her hand that had slapped him in the palm of his left hand, and another palm rest on top of it, warming it slightly that reduced the stinging sensation. She looked at him with shining wide eyes, and he grinned. “Newton’s third law, Sarah. You hurt me, you get hurt.” He rubbed the stinging skin with his palm a little and the sensation disappeared totally.
How did I ever miss him grinning like this?
You didn’t miss. This is the first time you’re seeing.
She swiftly jerked her hand away as his thought replied hers, turning around. Don’t think!
Yeah, good choice. He thought again and she felt him grinning behind her back. They walked back into the elevator, and Chris pressed 0. She wondered why she didn’t feel his pain when she had hit her, but quickly waved the thought away lest he perceived that too.
No point letting someone know you cared about how you had hurt them.
As the elevator descended in silence, she turned to him. “Chris, I’m-”
And you’ll get a back slap right now.
Startled, her shoulders jerked. Why?
For saying sorry, dum dum.
She didn’t say sorry again as she turned around, but he felt her guilt of hitting him so hard flowing through her every second, and he soothed her thoughts with forgiving emotions of his own. She was normal by the time the elevator came to rest.
Sarah stepped out first and stepped on the escalator. She turned back to see whether he was following, and the red spot on his cheek made her wince. He looked at her and smiled, but the coloured cheek pulled her eyes towards it. Oh no...
Chris didn’t know why she had thought that. When he stepped off the elevator, she was just standing at its edge and looking straight at him, barely shorter in height. He tried to discern her thoughts, but before he could focus she came close and kissed him softly where his cheek burned from the hit. Though he didn’t want anything to spoil the moment when her lips touched his face, his mind interrupted him almost simultaneously with her hundreds of unsaid apologies. He didn’t need any now- or for that matter, even in the future. She withdrew, said nothing and picked up her Les Femme kit to comb her hair. Then she put the comb and a small handheld mirror back, picked up the iPod and walked out of the revolving doors looking picture perfect. Chris made his legs move towards the McDonald’s, and after emerging quickly with a large packet, he walked out of the dead mall.
They stood outside the mall once more, but now staring in the direction where they had seen the town. “We should’ve brought your Audi.” He spoke as he squinted to locate the town visible from the building’s roof. And he barely managed to close his mouth when the traffic signal near him turned green with another audible twing like yesterday and Sarah’s Audi appeared in front of them. It was a considerable shock, and for a few seconds neither moved. It was not exactly Sarah’s Audi. It was blue instead of grey, and had no license plate.
Chris first put a hand on the car to check whether it was not merely an illusion, and when it felt solid he put their things at the back and jumped in. Sarah stared at the car for some more time before she got in. Sarah drove, while he tried to figure out wherever they had landed. One mystery he had figured out because Sarah had told him. Here, you could get whatever you wished for. Only last night before sleeping he had wished Sarah didn’t know his emotions, and during the morning incident he had discovered that unless he released what felt like a river behind a dam inside his mind, his thoughts did not reach Sarah. It was a great advantage. Who knows what her reaction would have been if she had instantly felt how hard she had hit him?
Sarah desperately wanted this nightmare to end, to wake up in her bed again. But since the morning sun didn’t at all feel like one in a nightmare, she drove on towards the town’s last known direction as seen from the roof. She definitely needed to see living beings apart from Chris, and desperately wanted answers. Picking up a sealed glass of Coca Cola from the pack that Chris had brought from the hotel, she bit the cap and spit it out of the car, having not engaged the roof so far- and took a deep swig. The wind felt good in her face and her hair, and she thought if it would cool down the red spot on his cheek.
“Stop minding, it hardly hurts.” When Chris spoke, her grip on the steering wheel faltered for a second. He had been thinking very less today, and she was still not comfortable with not knowing how many thoughts she was relaying to him all the time.
Chris was glad that his dam was closed right then. The spot burned still, but not from the hit anymore.
But why was she not hearing his thoughts? She would find out answers to that too. She floored the accelerator.